One thing that constantly amazes me about Jesus is that he had no problem making enemies.
Most of us go through life trying to avoid conflict, keeping our thoughts to ourselves, and going to extraordinary efforts NOT to make people mad at us. We sugar coat things. We hold back. We think twice. We bite our tongues. We beat around the bush and rely on “little white lies.” We easily fall in line, and would never want to rock the boat.
That. Wasn’t. Jesus.
If Jesus were doing his thing today, the progressives would label him a conservative. The conservatives would label him a liberal. The rich would ignore him. The middle class would feel threatened by him. The government would not know what to do with him. Even most churches would feel it best to distance themselves from him.
Jesus: “Blessed are you who are poor”
Us: But the poor are just lazy. They are a drain on society. They’re only in that situation because they abuse drugs or alcohol. We should drug test them before we help them.
Jesus: “Blessed are you who hunger now.”
Us: There MUST be a work requirement and drug tests for food stamps. We can’t have people abusing the system. Hmm…now what should we do with all this excess food? Just throw it out. No one would want to eat that junk.
Jesus: “Blessed are you who weep now.”
Us: Here, watch this funny cat video. That will cheer you right up! What? You’re depressed? What do you have to be sad about? Don’t you realize their are people who have it much worse than you…?
Jesus: “Woe to you who are rich.”
Us: Yeah, those One-Percenters. They’re so evil and corrupt. Now excuse me while I Tweet about it from my iPhone in the drive-thru line at Starbucks in my brand new hybrid.
Jesus: “Woe to you who are well-fed now.”
Us: Well, I could lose weight I guess…
Jesus: “Woe to you who laugh now.”
Us: Here, watch this funny video of skateboarders crashing.
Jesus: “Woe to you when everyone speaks well about you.”
Us: Look how many LIKES I got so far! It’s like triple digits. OMG… what were you saying, Jesus?
Jesus: “Love your enemies.”
Us: Oh yeah, I love everyone. I have nothing but love for people I disagree with. And it’s out of love that I must correct their “false narrative” and misguided political beliefs in the comments of their latest Facebook post. I love them so much that I want them to think just like I do. Then we won’t be enemies anymore once they realize I’m right! What’s so bad about that?
Jesus: “Give to everyone who asks you.”
Us: But I can’t give at church AND work AND school AND the checkout line. Everyone is looking for a handout these days. It’s pathetic.
Jesus: “Do not judge and you will not be judged.”
Us: Aha! There it is! Who do you think you are, Jesus, telling me how to live my life?
Jesus: “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.”
Us: But wait, you just said…
Jesus: “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”
I’m reminded of what GK Chesterton said: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”
Jesus came to topple the rich and powerful from their thrones and to exalt the downtrodden and marginalized. In other words the GOSPEL is truly good news for “the least of these.” And the GOSPEL can be downright terrifying for the rest of us.
We’ve come so far from the original message of Christ. We are no longer shocked when Jesus says, “It’s easier for a camel to enter the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” Because WE DON’T THINK WE’RE RICH. We think Jesus is always talking about someone else. Jeff Bezos, Tim Cook, Bill Gates, Oprah – they’re RICH. No me! But yeah, you are. I am. And therein lies the danger.
We rationalize and come up with all these reasons Jesus isn’t talking to US. But he is. And he means it. “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,” and not do what I say?”
Do we realize just how RADICAL Jesus’ message is? Probably not. And that’s the problem. That’s why we are where we are. That’s why the church is shrinking – at least in the West.
Want to turn the world upside down? Start living out the teachings of Jesus. The world needs true disciples now more than ever before.
But be warned – It was this kind of action and preaching that made Jesus’ family think he was crazy and made the religious leaders begin to plot his death. So there’s that.